Georgia Ports achieves strong safety record in FY2020


Post image

In Fiscal Year 2020, Georgia Ports lost-time accident ratio was the lowest on record.

Previous low for lost-time accidents set in 1998

Georgia Ports Chief Operating Officer Ed McCarthy says the Authority’s goal is for every employee to leave work the way they came. This philosophy is reflected in GPA’s value statement, with safety topping the list.

In Fiscal Year 2020, GPA’s lost-time accident (LTA) ratio was the lowest ever, with the previous record low set in 1998. The Authority’s LTA ratio, which is figured by the number of accidents per 200,000 hours worked, is evidence of its commitment to a safer work environment. Not only did GPA reduce the number of LTAs, but the recovery time for injuries also decreased.

“Soon after I joined GPA four years ago, we collectively decided to update our values and make safety our top priority,” McCarthy said. “There has been an effort to encourage personal safety commitments to identify issues on the spot.”

Terminal investments throughout GPA’s facilities have contributed to fewer employees being injured on the job. McCarthy said the use of roundabouts for improved traffic flow is one of the first upgrades that come to mind. In addition, improved signage, jersey barriers, electronic speed monitoring and paving improvements in container stack areas have contributed to fewer on-terminal injuries.

Separating truck, vessel and rail traffic are among additional initiatives designed to minimize accidents. Designated areas for export and import containers also contribute to improved terminal navigation. Wes Lanier, senior director of strategic operations and safety, said measures such as cross-departmental assessments have kept safety at the forefront of daily operations. These efforts have contributed to several long-standing exemplary safety records at GPA.

Mayor’s Point Terminal, which handles breakbulk commodities, has gone more than 4,500 consecutive days without a lost-time accident, while the team in Bainbridge has more than 1,700 days. The Appalachian Regional Port team has gone more than 750 days while Ocean Terminal team has a 415-day streak. Other departments such as Port Police, Garden City Terminal docks and crane operations also have impressive records.

Just as GPA lists safety as a top value, the Authority also prioritizes the health of its workers. The COVID-19 crisis led to enhanced protocols to minimize the risk of exposure. Lanier said COVID-19 has also led to frequent cleaning of equipment and assigning equipment operators to specific machines. Engagement from safety representatives assigned to every department at GPA keep management up to date on terminal operations. In addition, GPA has performed job safety analyses and provided employees with all necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). “We want to thank all port users for rising to the task during this challenging time to keep our employees and port partners safe, while ensuring our terminals operate smoothly,” Lanier said.

Enhanced employee training programs emphasize proper equipment operation. Equipment simulations and on-the-job guidance have proven effective for ship-to-shore crane operators, rubber-tired gantry crane operators and empty container handlers. Managers are also tasked with observing any human behavior that could potentially lead to an injury.

Another initiative launched in FY2020 was a near-miss and safety hazard reporting program. The program is integrated with the Industry Safe online portal and allows all port users to alert the corporate safety department of on-terminal hazards including potholes, traffic issues and electrical problems. Jason Hunt, general manager of corporate safety, said the system is another way for safety to be embraced by everyone.  “We had an excellent response by port users which has made a huge impact and stepped up safety across the board,” Hunt said.

McCarthy said new tools such as Industry Safe aid in identifying hot spots in the container yard. The software has been instrumental in creating measures and action items that minimize the risk of injury when employees are working with machinery.

“We have seen a significant reduction in LTAs because of the hard work and dedication of our safety team and employees throughout GPA,” McCarthy said. “Making GPA a safer place to work is everyone’s responsibility.”